Alyse Bensel


I kept them in a terrarium
overgrown with ferns and nerve
plants and begonias, the humid
atmosphere’s phosphorescent
sun sealed by glass and plastic,
pale imitation of a rainforest.
When I offered them crickets
coated in white vitamin powder,
brides thrown to quiet slaughter,
I observed the aftermath: mouths
like fine-toothed combs hinged
open wide, then in surprise when
I would find one nestled in a shoe
or scuttling around the kitchen floor.
My mother wished for their deaths.
We’ve made them too comfortable,
she hissed. They’ll live forever.
Her slight green nightmares
were given a second chance.
The crickets trilled in the closet,
my loud and lonely forest.
I never took them out for fear
of tragedy mistaken for spectacle.

Alyse Bensel is the author of Rare Wondrous Things, a poetic biography of Maria Sibylla Merian (Green Writers Press, forthcoming 2020), and three chapbooks, including Lies to Tell the Body (Seven Kitchens Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly ReviewGulf Coast, Poetry International, and West Branch. She teaches at Brevard College, where she directs the Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference.